LANSING (AP) - The Michigan Legislature gave final approval Thursday to a 17-bill package that aims to crack down on human trafficking and help its victims.
The bills now headed to Gov. Rick Snyder would let victims clear their criminal records. Minors under age 18 suspected of prostitution would be presumed to be trafficking victims, and "Johns" soliciting sex from minors would face stiffer criminal penalties.
Lawmakers also voted to eliminate the statute of limitations for exploiting children and extend it to 25 years to bring charges against suspected adult traffickers. Sex buyers who solicit sex from minors would be added to Michigan's sex offender registry.
Many of the bills stem from recommendations made by the state Commission on Human Trafficking, headed by Attorney General Bill Schuette and state Rep. Kurt Heise of Plymouth Township.
The report said Michigan is thought to be a trafficking hot spot because of its international borders and waterways.
"This victim-centered legislation brings us one step closer to accomplishing the goals we outlined last year ... and marks positive progress towards ending modern day slavery in Michigan," Schuette said in a statement. "Young women who are forced into modern day slavery are victims, not criminals. This legislation strengthens victim protections and toughens penalties for traffickers by reducing the financial incentives to commit the crime."
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